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NEW YORK: Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday addressed the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) focusing on the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), Islamophobia, money laundering and climate change.
The meeting comes amid simmering tension in the Middle East over recent attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, which the United States blames on Iran, allegations Tehran denies.
In his over 45-minute maiden speech, Imran tore Indian Prime Minister Narendra to shreds for annexing the Indian Occupied Kashmir and imposing a repressive lockdown, with phone and internet services cutoff, thousands arrested, medical supplies running short and schools closed.
Imran said he would not have come to the United Nations if he had not felt that some "urgent issues" needed to be addressed.
Speaking in detail about the worst situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, Imran said Pakistan would fight till the end if India imposed a war in case of any Pulwama-like situation in the IOK.
“If a conventional war starts up between the two countries, anything can happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbour is faced with the choice: either you surrender, or you fight for your freedom till death?” he said.
“What will we do? I ask myself these questions. We will fight… and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders.”
He said there will be bloodbath once curfew is lifted in the IOK. “There are 900,000 troopsthere, they haven’t come to, as Narendra Modi says — for the prosperity of Kashmir… These 900,000 troops, what are they going to do? When they come out? There will be a bloodbath,” he said.
"When we came to power, we swore that we would try to bring peace. We went to fight the war on terror and we faced losses of (thousands of people). "I opposed the war because in the 1980s we joined the struggle against the Soviets funded by western countries.
"The mujahideen were trained by the Pakistan Army and they waged the freedom struggle. The Soviets called them terrorists and we called them freedom fighters. "In 1989 Soviets retreated; the Americans packed up and left. Here we had indoctrinated them in jihad against foreign occupation and now that the US had taken over, we were supposed to tell them it's no longer jihad.
"And so the US turned against us and it was a nightmare.
"Taliban were in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda was there; what did Pakistan have to do with it?
"When we came to power we decided we would dismantle what was left. I know India keeps alleging that these groups are there.
"I welcome UN observers, see for yourself.
"We now have a relationship with Afghanistan, Russia and then we want to mend fences with India.
"I have friends in India and I love going to India. So when my party came to power, we reached out to India and (said) let's resolve differences through trade.
"(Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi said there were terrorist attacks from Pakistan. We said well we have attacks in Balochistan from your end.
"Unfortunately we didn't make any headway. Our foreign minister was at the UNGA but they cancelled the meeting.
"Meanwhile a 20-year-old Kashmiri boy blew himself up at the Indian convoy. And India blamed us.
"We told him (Modi) if you have an iota of proof, send it. They bombed us (instead), and we retaliated.
"We immediately returned the (captured Indian) pilot, saying that we do not want an escalation.
"Rather than taking that as a peace gesture, [Modi claimed that] he had taught Pakistan a lesson; that their jets had killed 350 terrorists.
"Complete lies. They just killed 10 trees of ours which was quite painful given that we are growing all these trees."
The prime minister pointed out that Modi's entire election campaign revolved around an anti-Pakistan narrative.
"In his election campaign, Mr. Modi used words like 'This is just a trailer. The movie is about to start' and 'I went into Pakistan and taught them a lesson'."
He said that at the time, Pakistan chalked it up to just "politicians making statements" and that they would get back to the normal relationship with India post-elections.
The premier said that India did not respond to Pakistan's overtures following Modi's re-election as prime minister and soon it was discovered that India was trying to push Pakistan into the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to bankrupt the country.
"That's when we realised that there was an agenda and that agenda became obvious on the 5th of August when India went against 11 United Nations Security Council resolutions which say that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir have the right of self-determination," he said.
"They went against the Simla Accord, which is about sorting out our differences through bilateral means.
"They actually went against the Indian Constitution. Illegally, they revoked Article 370 which gave Kashmir the special status and [stationed] an extra 180,000 troops there," said the prime minister.
He said a total of 900,000 security forces were in the IOK putting eight million people of occupied Kashmir under curfew.
He said the answer to how anyone can do something like this lies in the RSS ideology followed by Modi.
"Now I must explain what RSS is. Modi is a life member (of RSS). "It is an organisation inspired by Hitler and Mussolini. They believe in racial purity and superiority. They believe they are an Aryan race.
"They believe in the ethnic cleansing of Muslims. They believe a golden age of Hindu rule was stopped by Muslims and then the British occupation. "What kind of people bring in 900,000 troops for eight million people? These are human beings," said Prime Minister Imran to applause from the audience.
"What comes with Aryan superiority is arrogance and it makes people commit mistakes and do stupid, cruel things like what Modi has done. "It is arrogance that has blinded Modi. Has he thought about what will happen after the curfew in Kashmir is lifted?
"What will he do? Does he think the people of Kashmir will quietly accept the status quo?"
"(Nearly) 100,000 Kashmiris have died in the past 30 years because they were denied their right of self-determination. Eleven thousand women were raped.
"The world hasn't done anything.
"What is going to happen will be a blood bath. The people will come out.
"Has he thought it through what happens then? Has anyone thought what happens when there is a bloodbath?
"What do you think they (Kashmiris) will think of the way they have been boxed in?"
He noted that even pro-India local leaders were taken out of Kashmir as part of the crackdown and 13,000 boys were picked up and taken to unknown locations.
"What will the people do then? [They will] take to the streets. The soldiers will then shoot them. They have already used pellet guns.
"And so Kashmiris will be further radicalised. There will be another Pulwama. And they (India) will blame us.
"They are already blaming us. They said we have 500 terrorists lined up to go in.
"Why would we send 500 terrorists when there are 900,000 troops?
"There will only be further cruelty on Kashmiris. It will give them the excuse to chant on the mantra of Islamic terrorism.
"The whole world then turns away.
"How do we (Pakistan) benefit from further increasing cruelty on the people of Kashmir?"
Prime Minister Imran said there was no other narrative left for India. "Whatever happens we will be blamed.
"What does Modi think the 180 million Muslims of India are thinking? Aren't they watching these Kashmiris stuck in?
"Don't you think they too will be radicalised? Then there will be blame on us again.
"What about the 1.3 billion Muslims watching this who know this is only happening because they are Muslims? What do you think they would think?
"What would the Jews of Europe think if 8,000 Jews were stuck? Are we children of a lesser God?
"Among the 1.3 billion (Muslims) someone will pick up arms," he said, citing the analogy of a Hollywood film.
"Muslims will become radicals because of this, not because of Islam. Because they see no justice.
"I have pictured myself locked up for 55 days. There are rapes, soldiers going into rooms.
"Would I want to let this humiliation continue? I would pick up a gun."
"You are forcing people into radicalisation," he said, addressing the Indian leadership.
"This is one of the most critical times. There will be a reaction to this and Pakistan will be blamed.
"Two nuclear countries will come face to face.
"Before we head there the UN has a responsibility; this is why the UN came into being in 1945. You were supposed to stop this from happening.
"I feel like we are back in 1939 [when] Czechoslovakia was annexed.
"Is the international community going to appease or stand up for justice or humanity?
He said the very first action that India needs to take is to lift the curfew and then release all detained prisoners.
"And then the world community must give the Kashmiris the right of self-determination," the prime minister stressed.
Islamophobia: Speaking of hatred towards Muslims, the Pakistan premier said Islamophobia had grown apace after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
“There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. It is creating a division,” he said. “Muslim women wearing Hijab has become an issue in some countries. It started after the 9/11 [attacks].”
He maintained that terrorism had nothing to do with any religion. He said Muslims were being marginalised in Europe.
“We all know marginalization leads to radicalism,” the prime minister said. “We must address this issue. No religion preaches radicalism.”
He said Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) created the state of Medina, which served as the basis of a Muslim civilization.
“I hear strange things about Islam that it is against the women and minorities. In Islam, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) announced that everyone is free to practice his religion.”
The prime minister also explained to the world why do Muslims react when someone blasphemes against sacred figures of Islam.
“It is important to understand this, the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) lives in our hearts, when he (Peace Be Upon Him) is ridiculed or insulted, we feel the pain. That’s why the Muslims react,” he said.
Money laundering: The prime minister said every year billions of dollars leave the poorer countries and go towards rich countries, siphoned off by the ruling elites of the western world.
"This is devastating the developing world. It is impoverishing them. The rich-poor gap is growing because of them."
He regretted that the seriousness with which money from drugs or terror financing is treated is not accorded to money laundered from poor countries.
"How will we help [our] 200 million people when we are just using all of our money for debt servicing? We could spend the money lost on our human beings.
"We do not have the money to spend millions on lawyers. We need help from the rich countries; they must show political will.
"How can poor countries spend money on human development?
"Unless the rich countries intend to build walls to stop economic refugees from coming in, there must be a deterrent.
"Corrupt elites must not be allowed to park their money (abroad). Why do we have these tax havens?
"Why shouldn't rich people pay taxes? Why are they legal, these secret accounts?
"Sooner or later there will be a crisis if the rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer.
"I hope the UN takes a lead on this. The IMF and ADB must find a way."
Climate change: Speaking about the climate change, he said so many leaders talked about the issue, but he felt there was a lack of seriousness.
“We don’t realize the urgency of the situation. We have so many ideas but ideas without funding are mere hallucinations,” PM Khan said.
“Our country is one of the top 10 countries that are most affected by the climate change. Eighty percent of our water comes from the glaciers,” he said.
“These glaciers are melting at a rapid pace. If nothing is done, I fear the people are going to be facing a worse catastrophe.”
He said he felt that the United Nations must assume leadership in this regard.
India to use right to reply: Meanwhile, after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech, India said it will use the right to reply in the UNGA.
Earlier, addressing a cheering audience of American intellectuals, former diplomats, representatives of media and members of Pakistani community at the Asia Society here, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the future of Kashmir should be decided by the Kashmiris themselves and urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to implement its decades-old resolutions, giving them the option to join either India or Pakistan.
"It is their (Kashmiris) right to decide, whatever they want," he told the audience.
"This is an open offer. Why don't India and Pakistan both allow them to decide their future?" he added.
The prime minister, who was answering a question, said India was now targeting Azad Kashmir after annexing the Occupied Kashmir.
Khan was greeted with a sustained applause as he walked in to interact with the large gathering, ahead of his much-anticipated address to the United Nations General Assembly the same day.
He spoke extensively about the plight of millions of Kashmiri people languishing under a repressive lockdown, with phone and internet services cutoff, thousands arrested, medical supplies running short and schools closed.
"Eight million people are in an open jail. My biggest worry is what happens once the curfew is lifted. We fear with 900,000 soldiers there, there will be a massacre," he said.
The United Nations, he said, had not played its part, as it had not sent its observers to assess the humanitarian situation in the curfew-bound Kashmir.
Imran said he was meeting the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday and would urge him to discharge his responsibility for maintaining international peace and intervene in Kashmir.
He warned that it was too risky to allow tensions to escalate between India and Pakistan, both of which were nuclear states.
Imran said Kashmir was a sort of dispute that the United Nations was established to resolve and stabilise the region.
"This is the UN's job," he said, adding, "They have to intervene, send observers there."
He also dismissed claims by India's Army Chief General Bipin Rawat that Pakistan had reactivated militant training camps and about 500 militants were waiting to infiltrate India.
"What possible benefit is Pakistan going to have now sending in terrorists when there are 900,000 security forces there? All that would happen is that there would be more oppression on the people of Kashmir," he continued.
The prime minister said he had apprised the world leaders at the UN about the dangerous situation prevailing in Kashmir.
"I have tried my best," he said.
"Unfortunately India today is governed by a racist ideology, which believes in a Hindu supremacy," Khan said.
"You cannot reason with a racist ideology, cannot reason with arrogance."
About President Donald Trump's offer to mediate the Kashmir dispute, he said the United States, as the most powerful country, should put its weight behind the UN and push for a settlement.
He said he had explained in detail the Kashmir issue to President Trump -- and that's why he said it was a complicated and difficult issue.
Responding to a question, the prime minister said he was working to help defuse tensions in the Gulf at the request of both President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, who asked him to meet the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Imran said he had met President Rohani and hoped that peace would prevail in Gulf.
He also hoped that the United States would resume talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 19-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.